Publish a 'popular science' version of your thesis?

By Grant Jacobs 11/03/2013 2


I know that would be asking students to do even more work (!), but give a gander at Oxford University geologist Jeannie Scott’s ‘for the public’ edition of her Ph.D. thesis on The Santiaguito volcanic dome complex, Guatemala (PDF file – an 8.8 Mb download).

Santiaguito-volcano-300px
Santiaguito volcano, seen from the summit of Santamaria. (source: Wikimedia Commons.)

It’s a great effort. Lots of photos and illustrations. (Her photos are better than the one I’ve used.) It’s pitched well, too, not ‘talking down’ to the reader or being over-simplified. There’s a little bit of everything: history, a light background to the geology, even the odd splash of humour,

… the formation of pairs is probably due to migration of the volcanic arc towards the coast. This migration takes hundreds of thousands of years, so it won’t affect anyone with beachfront property!

At the end there are links to further reading on-line (and at the very end, for those wanting a lead the the science, literature references).

So then, what about the idea of more students doing this?


Other articles on Code for life:

Thoughts on scientific abstracts also a science writing check-list

Banished from science writing. Words, that is.

On Italian earthquakes, scientists and communication

Outreach sections for research papers?

From science PhD to careers outside academia: what might help?

Professors, lost souls with great oratory power?


2 Responses to “Publish a 'popular science' version of your thesis?”

  • Hmm, in some ways though this is getting easier with the ways we can store data and information, and disseminate it. I could fit my PhD thesis on a 3.5″ floppy disc, but the technology to sample bits and upload it to the web weren’t absent.

    I suspect like many theses, mine has disappeared into the depths of the university library, and has never been seen since. At one level, I’d have liked to have popularised that work

  • I think it’s great when it can be done. They’re a huge effort for the number of eyeballs they get. Of course there are the important eyeballs of the examiners first…!

    (Your comment also reminds me that I favour students writing a series of papers, which they then preface with an introduction, or at least use the papers as the basis for the body of the thesis. An approach like this is used in some European countries. This won’t help reaching non-specialists, of course.)